This term we have been talking about befriending the body and have been exploring the different systems of the body and how our yoga practice can support them. We explored the lymphatic system, the digestive system, the skeletal system and this week we looked at the endocrine system. This system is seldom talked about as it's nature is as subtle as it is complex . Different glands around the body have the job of maintaining the body in a state of homeostasis through the use of hormones which the glands secrete in response to changes in the environment or within the body. As Sadghuru once said "the human body is the larges and most complex chemical factory on the planet".
There are seven major endocrine glands in the body, working together to maintain this state of balance: pineal, pituitary, thyroid and parathyroid (separate but located together), thymus, pancreas, adrenals and gonads or sexual organs. Each of these glands produce particular hormones, which affect the body differently. The pituitary gland is the master of all the glands, it releases hormones that regulate and influence all their functions.
We know a lot about how each of these glands work today but the original yogis had no way of knowing about hormones and how they work . Despite the luck of instruments and scientific knowledge they definitely had a sense for this aspect of physiology and they codified the functions of the endocrine glands and hormones through the theory of the chakras.
The chakras are not a physical parts of the body , they are areas of the body where prana circulates however studies have shown that they correspond to areas where there is a high concentration of nerve endings ( known as plexus) and they are also aligned to our organs and different systems in the body. The chakras and endocrine glands align in the following way:
• Sahasrara (crown) and pineal
• Ajna (third eye)and pituitary
• Vishuddha (throat) and thyroid
• Anahata (heart) and thymus
• Manipura (navel) and pancreas
• Swadisthana (pelvis)and reproductive glands
• Muladhara (base of the spine and legs)and adrenals
Hatha yoga uses different tools to build health including postures (asanas), breath work (pranayama) and meditation. Some of these work on the subtle energy of the chakras as well as the physical structures of glands and organs.
Here are some examples of specific hatha yoga practices that can influence the chakras and endocrine glands :
• Headstand and other inversions stimulate the crown chakra and the pineal gland by moving the flow of blood to the brain
• Meditation techniques which include focusing the gaze and forward bends stimulate ajna chakra and the pituitary gland.
• Bridge pose invigorates vishuddha chakra and the thyroid.
• Chest openers, such as lying over a bolster, and shoulder openers, such as cow face pose, energize anahata cakra and the thymus.
• Core strengthening poses, such as boat, invigorating pranayama practices (kaphalabati and bastrika), or a simple cat cow have positive effects on the manipura cakra and the pancreas.
• Hip openers, such as cow face pose and cobbler’s pose, influence svadisthana chakra and the reproductive glands.
• Grounding poses and hamstring stretches, such as standing forward bend, promote muladhara chakra and the adrenal glands health.
• Poses that bring blood flow to the kidneys area like bow pose,locust pose and baradvhajasana twist for example can be beneficial the adrenal glands and manipura chakra.
This is just another of the many benefits of a well rounded yoga practice and it is also another great way of creating more awareness and presence during the practice.
This great gift that is Yoga never ceases to amaze me !
Love and light